Mayor to expand street ambassador presence in downtown San Francisco

San Francisco Mayor London Breed. October 24, 2022. 

In an effort to improve public safety, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced an expansion of a street ambassador and civilian police personnel program. 

The expansion will funnel 150 ambassadors and attendants from four sectors in downtown San Francisco, particularly at BART and Muni Metro Stations.  

Breed, backed by the Board of Supervisors, expects to welcome new Mid-Market/Tenderloin Safety Ambassadors, orange jacketed SF Welcome Ambassadors, BART service attendants, and SFPD Community Ambassadors in six weeks' time.  

Currently, the city has funded over 250 ambassadors to assist residents and visitors in the Mid-Market, Tenderloin and Downtown neighborhoods and tourist areas.  

Though their role is not meant to replace law enforcement, ambassadors are meant to be a visible safety presence who can escort residents, report emergencies and provide directions and information to the public. 

The initiative was launched by Breed in efforts to not only boost economic recovery and safety improvements in the city, but also fill in gaps for the city's limited police staff. 

"San Francisco has a significant police staffing shortage, so we need to be more creative in ways that deliver a positive and welcoming experience on our street and while also ensuring our sworn officers can do their jobs," Breed said in a statement. "By deploying more ambassadors and hiring more staff who can do support work for our officers out in the field, we can better respond to residents, workers, and visitors who want our city to be cleaner and safer."   

The San Francisco Police Department also plans to hire more Police Service Aides, who are civilians that can provide support to police officers without the privilege of peace officer powers, like carrying a firearm.  

Police Chief Bill Scott said the department's public safety commitment is more than just making arrests, it's also about reducing harm in underserved communities. 

"The ambassador program is a great example of how we have taken community input and collaborated with Mayor Breed to implement innovative, non-traditional policing solutions and strategies to enhance the safety of San Francisco and reduce community harms," Scott said. "While ambassadors are not meant to replace sworn police officers, they act as a force multiplier to enhance the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of the sworn police resources we do have."   

BART said that since it launched its elevator attendant program in 2018 and restroom attendant program earlier this year, station areas are significantly cleaner and "free of unwanted behavior." With this new expansion, downtown transit stations will have staff presence during all operating hours. 

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"Having a dedicated attendant to welcome riders and chat with families while they wait for a train will boost our visible presence and enhance our team approach to connecting people in need with public services," said BART General Manager Bob Powers in a statement. "More attendants will allow BART safety staff such as our police officers, Transit Ambassadors, and Crisis Intervention Specialist to focus on their work walking trains and stations responding to calls for service and the needs of vulnerable populations."   

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management is tasked with planning and coordinating the deployment of ambassadors. The department said it will plan deployments based on need, traffic and community feedback.  

"Community ambassadors have demonstrated that they are helpful in keeping streets welcoming and accessible," stated Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management. "San Francisco intends to utilize ambassadors in concert with public safety and street crisis resources to promote healthy and safe streets for all who live, work or visit our City."